The news on the shortage of workforce in housing sector published on April 26 in Republica may or may not have shocked our politicians, planners and policy makers. But they should take this as an alarm bell that if we do not act on time to solve our internal problems, we would soon see the shortage of workforce in other sectors as well.
The number of Nepalis leaving the country every day, mostly youths – the building blocks of a nation – is alarming to say the least.
Let’s see what the numbers say.
According to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) figures, the number of Nepalis leaving the country for employment purpose last fiscal year was 219,965 – averaging almost 603 individuals a day! This number was 683 during fiscal year 2064/2065 BS.
Mind you, this figure is from the DoFE and doesn’t include the number of Nepalis that go to India or the ones that leavefurther education abroad. And this also doesn’t include those Nepalis who head to foreign shores via India and other countries using the “middlemen”.
Here’s another interesting fact. The total number of Nepalis who headed for various countries for foreign employment in the last four years or so exceeds the total number between fiscal years 2051/2052 BS 2062/2063 S a total of 12 years. In those 12 years, a total of 758,675 Nepalis headed out of the country whereas 856,851 Nepalis left their motherland between fiscal years 2063/2064 BS 2066 Chaitra – just within three years and nine months, to be exact.
A significant number of Nepalis have emigrated to India in recent years. Since Nepalis and Indians don’t need visas to cross the border, the government doesn’t have an exact number of Nepalis living in India. Experts guestimate the number to be in between 1.5 million to 3 million and a significant chunk of this number is youths.
Another significant number of Nepalis go overseas for further studies. According to the Institute of International Education, Open Door 2009 Country Fact Sheet for Nepal, a total of 62,028 Nepali students have gone to US for further studies since 1995/96. The number of Nepali students who landed in US rose to 11,581 last year, a whopping 29.6 percent increase in comparison to the previous year , putting Nepal at 11th position on the list of countries sending students to US. The Australian Government’s Australian International Education reported that 17,526 Nepali students arrived in Australia for the year 2009 – putting Nepal in the 7th position on the list of countries sending students to Australia. The number of Nepali students headed for UK, European, South Asian and other countries have also surged. While increased number of Nepalis heading out to get world-class education and experience is a good thing, the sad part is that a large number of them never return home. Why? The current situation of the country.
A significant number of Nepalis – the skilled and educated – are in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand because of the respective government’s policy to attract skilled individuals from around the world. And not to mention a sizable number of Nepalis in tourist visas usually “disappear” especially during their visits to US, UK and European countries.
In a nutshell, according to knowledgeable guestimate, the total number of Nepalis living in various countries is around 5 million – majority of them are youths who do not ever intend to return home.
Now, let’s take a look at the total population of Nepali youths as per our population data. A quick math on the official population data from Central Bureau of Statistics revealed that the projected number of youths in 2011 would be 9.83 million. For the purpose of this article – assuming all the factors remain unchanged – I calculated the percentage increase between 1991 and 2001 censuses among the age groups 15 to 34 (assuming that this age group represents the largest chunk of Nepalis heading abroad). Using the percentage increase, I computed the projected figure for 2011.
According to this back-of-the-envelope calculation, almost half of the country’s most productive individuals – between the age 15 and 34 – are on foreign soil. And because of the current security situation, a significant fraction of the remaining half who are in Nepal are desperately waiting for their turn to leave the country. This leaves us with the three groups of youths. First: Those involved in killings, looting and terrorizing people and whose number is on the rise because now other political parties have started forming their own “youth” groups. Second: The uneducated, neglected and suppressed; they contribute to the statistical data but not to the national economy and since they avoid involving themselves in any wrongdoings, the first group and the government think they are of no use. Third: The ones that are working – in private or public sector – and trying their best to bring about a positive change. This is the most important and productive group but unfortunately because of the increasing number of the first group of youths and current political situation, which doesn’t look like it will improve anytime soon, this group is beginning to question their own rationale and slowly looking for other options. Well, there are no options, there is only one option and that is to leave the country. And the sad part is even the parents do not intervene – or in some cases encourage – their decision.
Now some of the readers might argue that it is because of these Nepalis’ hard-earned money that Nepal has remained afloat even in such tumultuous situations. I completely agree. There is no doubt that remittance is one of the major contributors to our national economy. But the 520 million rupees remitted daily comes with a price – social problems.
Failed relationships and extramarital affairs are on the rise among Nepalis who work abroad. Another major but rarely talked about problem is the impact on the psychology of a child who is raised by a single parent, or sometimes by relatives when both parents work abroad. Kidnappers and extortionist also target these families. There are frequent news reports about women being physically, mentally and sexually abused by their employers in foreign countries – around 21,000 Nepali women are working abroad as per MoFE data and the number is rising. And, among 700 or so that go abroad for foreign employment every day, more than three, on average, come back in coffins.
Let’s be optimistic and see how we can get rid of these social problems and plan a future that is more productive and more giving to the society. Nepal is a budding nation and it needs workforce on all areas of development. The Nepalis scattered all around the world work as scientists, engineers, professors, economists, entrepreneurs and construction workers – exactly the kind of manpower we need for our development. Most Nepalis who go abroad as “unskilled” laborers come back as skilled individuals. The politicians and planners need to understand their potential and should use their experience and skills at home.
Most of the Nepalis abroad feel hopeless because of the current political and security situation in Nepal and this is one of the main reasons that they avoid coming back – even if it means overstaying illegally.
Most of the time, the foreign returnees – especially the ones who return from Middle Eastern countries – aboard a Kathmandu-bound flight have similar kind of fear and anxiety that they had when they first left for the unknown land. This time the fear and anxiety is about whether or not they will be able to stay permanently with the family and do something on their own or they have to return to the same foreign land to continue the same mundane, at times risky, job just because of the country’s situation.
We have to identify and prioritize the role of these nation-builders and should make the country’s situation more welcoming, and for this the political parties should quit locking their horns and come to a mutual understanding to sort out problems as quickly as possible.
Increasing and not sustanable remittance provides a false sense of security both for individuals as well as the country. If you look at the way these remittances are being used in Nepal, you would realize that it is only exasperating/increasing the trade deficit of the country (because almost all of it is used up in consumption and most of the consumable items in Nepal a
Keep it up !! Nice Article, I like it and this is the almost scenario of Nepal. Myself being graduate in Masters of Science, presently in abroad, making pizza in restaurant but i like it this way. When i was in home country, I tried many times to get job but now and then almost every time i was "slacked" coz i didn´t have "jack". I am confident that given a chance i can make difference; positive difference; so as my other friends who are in abroad for the same reasons. I wish i could spen
Well the most productive workforce is either in Nepal Bidhyaarthi Sangh, AKHIL or Krantikari backed up by Great Leaders as Sher Bahadur, Oli or Prachanda. We have witnessed their "Skill" in demolition over the years and that is the only skill our Politicians want. They still enjoy all the previleges - choosing their own multi million ride on fuel supplied by taxpayers money, as the ruling elites of a beleagured nation. They still have their "youth" wings. They can always present "Annual Budget"
The main problem other than political instability is the pay scale of Nepalese Companies. While the true bread winner of an organization, say the laborer, earns couple of thousands per month, the owners earn millions of rupees. And the owners of the large corporate houses gives us lame excuses that there is no man power in Nepal and keep paying peanuts.
I am a computer programmer who earn ten thousand rupees per month. Yet I have spend over one million rupees on my education, tra
Ravi M Rai
There are writers whose words expresses my feelings . Cheers Sandip KC you are one. Well said .
I would also love to come back to my Nepal given that I can have a favorable environment to do so !